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Friday, 1 November, 2002, 15:23 GMT
'No more survivors' in Italy school
Rescuers remove a child's body from the ruins
The death toll rose throughout Friday morning
Emergency workers in southern Italy are picking through the ruins of a school in which at least 26 children were killed in an earthquake on Thursday, but there is little hope of finding any more survivors.

Three bodies are believed to remain under the rubble in San Giuliano di Puglia, more than 24 hours after the earthquake, which was the worst to hit Italy for five years.

AP
Enlarge image
Enlarge image

The school collapsed on itself while other buildings were left standing

An entire class of six-year-olds and two women are now known to have died.

The are also reports that another "strong" tremor has hit the region on Friday.

Angry questions are being asked in the village about

  • why the school opened when others in the area stayed closed after earthquake warnings
  • why the newly modernised school building was destroyed when others nearby were not.

The school's gym has been turned into a makeshift mortuary - 26 small white coffins have been laid out for the children.

Their families sat with the coffins, holding on to favourites toys, clothing and photographs.

Voices which had been heard in the rubble on Thursday have fallen silent and specialist equipment can no longer detect body heat, rescuers said.

Open in new window : Italy quake
Pictures from the scene of the school tragedy

Families watching the teams who worked through the night cheered when survivors were found - including two boys found in the early hours of the morning.

But as dawn came, hopes faded. A civil protection officer, Ernesto Angelotti, told the Reuters news agency: "There's no noise.

"There are no readings from the heat detectors. The bulldozers are moving in and now, I am afraid, there is very little hope."

Click here to see a map of the affected area

Women waiting by the school
Correspondents say everyone in the village will know at least one victim
Elsewhere, some of the 34 people rescued alive from the school continued to be treated for serious injuries in hospital.

In Rome, the Pope said a "heartfelt prayer" for the victims.

The BBC's David Willey, reporting from the village, said the grief in San Giuliano was overpowering, with a stunned silence replacing the shrieks and wails which accompanied the desperate search for survivors throughout the night.

But questions about why the tragedy struck are beginning to be asked.

The school - the most badly damaged building in the village - was constructed nearly 50 years ago and had a concrete second floor added recently.


It [San Giuliano di Puglia] is one of the smallest sleepy villages you can imagine - and it is unreal that it is now on every news channel

Rosina Borrelli, UK

It collapsed but other buildings - some of them hundreds of years old - stayed standing during Thursday's quake, which measured 5.4 on the Richter scale.

Attention is focussing on building standards, and whether the school should have opened after earlier, smaller, quakes were felt.

Italy has declared a state of emergency to ensure funding is swiftly available and to allow army participation in the rescue and recovery operations in the Molise region, where some 3,000 people have lost their homes.

Widespread damage

In the town of Campobasso, cracks gaped in walls and chunks of plaster fell from ceilings, sending people running into the streets.

Recent Italian earthquakes
1997 - 13 die and 40,000 homeless as roof of Assisi basilica collapses
1980 - 2,500 killed and 7,500 injured in Naples
A major highway bridge was damaged, a railway line was closed after a viaduct was damaged and many power and phone lines were put out of action.

Seismologists had already been monitoring the region after this week's eruption of Mount Etna in Sicily, Europe's biggest active volcano.

A quake also hit Mount Etna on Thursday, measuring 3.7 on the Richter scale. It did not appear to be connected with the tremor hitting southern Italy.

Italy has a long history of earthquakes but is continually being taken off-guard by them as the faults are hidden and difficult to observe.


Map of Italy showing epicentre of earthquake

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Brian Barron
"Hard questions are already being asked"
The BBC's Emma Jane Kirby in San Giuliano di Puglia
"The look of panic and terror on everybody's faces was so acute"

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See also:

30 Oct 02 | Europe
27 Jul 01 | Science/Nature
29 Aug 01 | Europe
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